Transition City rewards local businesses for eco efforts

Transition City rewards local businesses for eco efforts
Chris McCartney
19 June 2023
5 minute read

How can Transition groups connect with, support and promote small firms that want to have a positive impact on community and planet? Salisbury Transition City’s Green Business Association and awards scheme is doing just that, and could be a model for other places too… 

Salisbury Transition City was formed in 2016, and held festivals, events, started a Library of Things and other projects to engage people in transforming their city. 

Then, as trustee Eva McHugh, explained they spotted a new need and opportunity: “There’s an obvious gap with big business being encouraged to do stuff for the environment, and individual action –  but small and medium sized businesses don’t get much advice or encouragement.” 

With some 750 businesses, social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations in their district, combined, they have a huge potential impact.  According to a report by the SME Climate Hub, a non-profit global initiative, small and medium businesses are responsible for 44 per cent of non-household emissions. And there can be some specific challenges for companies this size in taking action, with just a few staff and little specialist knowledge. 

Eva explained:  “There’s a clear desire for businesses to do better for the environment but there’s so much information, often businesses don’t have the knowledge or time and there’s so much greenwashing. 

“We wanted to educate businesses in an easy, digestible format and in the process, for businesses doing a lot of good to be rewarded and recognised. Hopefully that will encourage others to do more.”

Sophia Karlberg, who manages the project along with Eva, explained how they developed a detailed questionnaire that looks at business’ impact in a series of key areas like energy, transport, banking, organisation, waste and procurement. 

One of the strengths of this model is its holistic – instead of focusing only on single use plastic or transport emissions, it helps companies see where they could make the biggest positive changes. And it’s relevant to a whole range of business types – among the 50 questions are some sector specific ones for retail, catering or salons for example.

The owner of Muse Hairdressing in Salisbury proudly holding their Green Business Gold Award, with a wooden trophy made by a local artist.

Once a business has completed the questionnaire, they receive personalised feedback on specific changes they could make based on their answers, and a practical 40-page toolkit the STC team have put together, specifically for small businesses. Those which are already making great progress will be awarded with a Bronze, Silver or Gold award, which they can proudly display in their premises or online.. A local artist has made the wooden trophies, which Sophia and Eva have been handing over and organising local publicity. 

Sophia said: “For SMEs, the benefit is it’s local. There are a lot of other schemes, like ISOs and BCorp, but there is a heavy time commitment and cost to go down these routes; it’s not realistic for small businesses. By focusing on the local area, it’s free to engage, it’s all in one place, and the publicity is local. There is the toolkit and suggestions so they can do their own learning.” 

The project has connected Salisbury Transition City with new partners, like the Business Improvement District, and the group has even joined the city’s Chamber of Commerce. They’ve further developed their connections with Salisbury City Council. Participating businesses become part of a newly formed Green Business Association for Salisbury, and in the future, they hope there will be opportunities for events, training and networking to encourage and equip firms to go further and do more. 

Having put in so much work to pull together resources relevant to small businesses in an accessible format, Salisbury Transition City is interested in working out how to share their model with other towns and cities. 

National Lottery Together For the Planet funding for the project has now ended, and they are exploring ways to continue the project and make it financially sustainable. Volunteers are being trained up to review answers and give tailored feedback to businesses. 

Sophia and Eva hope much of the content could be adapted by other communities seeking to set up a scheme like this, and that offering a training programme and pack with all the materials could generate an income to keep the programme going in Salisbury and help other community groups to set up a scheme like theirs with much less work and research. 

Find Out More and get in touch if you are interested in learning about how to set up a similar project in your place:

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